What is Biraciality? – Karoline Summerville

“What is Biraciality?” This big question came to me as I listened to Dr. Dalton’s discussion with Dr. Peter Steeves about asking big questions. For me, this is my big question. I have long been amused by the question people often pose to me “What are you?” and I’ve realized my answer is: “I don’t know.” Not only is biraciality aesthetically confusing in its ambiguity, it is internally confusing. Zadie Smith, a best-selling author and eloquent speaker and thinker (my own opinion) would demand that biraciality does not have to be confusing (as she discusses in this podcast). To another biracial person, that is a relief. Nonetheless, I’m not a famous author and identity often requires validation and I mine has not been validated to the same extent as hers – I have not published one book. Never been asked for my autograph, and people do not call me to be a guest speaker or lecturer. So, yes, my biraciality is still confusing.


Trevor Noah, another validated identity (Comedian, and host of The Daily Show) shares my confusion though, in his new book Born A Crime as he discusses growing up with an African mother and a white father in South Africa where race mixing was not only frowned upon, but deemed illegal (hence the title of his book). I was comforted Noah’s experience – first because I can relate to his difficulty with his own identity and secondly, because he was literally born a crime and I wasn’t necessarily.

It is interesting to think about the visibility of biracial individuals in the media, especially on movies and television. Halle Berry, a renowned actress who happens to be biracial, is often viewed as black or she her ambiguous aesthetic is used to simply portray a beautiful woman – a romanticized almost raceless body. In this way, biracial bodies are invisible and are not necessarily represented authentically. Slowly now, they are being represented for what they are – multicultural and that is becoming more and more accepted – not necessarily understood, but accepted. screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-8-29-44-pm

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One Response to What is Biraciality? – Karoline Summerville

  1. mediaphiles says:

    This is so interesting, and such a nice post, Karoline! “The B Word” by Maria San Filippo is so interesting (also in terms of our studies this week) and deals with so many real issues with the category. I’m excited to see this play out in Transparent, which I’m dying to start binging on over Christmas break. -Corey W

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